Section 12(1)(c) of the Right to Education Act (RTE) endeavours to make our school system more equitable and inclusive by reserving 25% seats in private unaided non-minority schools for socially and economically disadvantaged children. With private schools receiving reimbursements from the government, it is arguably the world’s largest programme for public funding and private provision for education with the potential to benefit 16 million children over the next 8 years. And yet, there is huge variation in its implementation across states since their commitment towards this programme and the capacity of their education departments differ significantly.
A research report that examines this section from an administrative, legal and financial perspective, “State of the Nation: RTE Section 12(1)(c)” was launched on March 24, 2015 at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. Highlighting innovations and challenges and recommending suggestions for improvement, the report was the product of a joint research project by a team of researchers and policy experts from Central Square Foundation, Indian Institute of Management- Ahmedabad, Accountability Initiative and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
At the launch of this report, representatives from the partner institutions spoke about their commitment for this provision. One key highlight that emerged was the recognition that Section 12(1)(c) aims to make the school system more inclusive, provide more school choice for socially and economically disadvantaged and help state governments look at both the public and the private education system holistically. Another takeaway was the need to analyse the role and responsibilities of private entities to fulfill a social good such as education and to augment the regulatory capacity of the state to ensure that private bodies fulfill this obligation.
Mr. Abhimanyu Singh, former Director of UNESCO Beijing Office, launched the report along with the partner organizations. In his keynote address, Mr. Singh spoke about the need for public and private sectors to work together to fully operationalise this ambitious programme. Borrowing from the example of the mid-day meal scheme, Mr. Singh drew a blueprint for successful implementation of Section 12(1)(c). He argued that it would require “sustained political commitment at the highest level, flexibility to adapt and respond to changing situations, a firm financial commitment from the centre and from states and a strong partnership with civil society, private sector and local communities”.
The keynote was followed by a brief question and answer session with the authors: Sunaina Kuhn, who filled in for Prof. Ankur Sarin of IIM- A, Praveen Khanghta, Research Associate at CSF, Dr. Ambrish Dongre of Accountability Initiative and Dr. Arghya Sengupta of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
A panel discussion titled “The realities and challenges of implementation of 25% reservation for disadvantaged sections in private schools” was moderated by Bikkrama Daulet Singh, Associate Director at CSF. The panelists present were Prof. Nalini Juneja of NUEPA, Mr. Amit Kaushik of IPE Global, Dr. John Kurrien of the Centre for Learning Resources and Ms. Annie Namala of the Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion. Representing the broad spectrum of academicians, policy experts and civil society, the panelists focused their discussion on the modalities and responsibilities of creating a push from the government, ensuring access to schools and providing for socially inclusive education.
In his thank you address, Ashish Dhawan, founder of Central Square Foundation, spoke of the need for organizations and institutions to collaborate with governments, schools, and one another to create solid proof points for successful implementation of RTE Section 12(1)(c).